Processors are now offering finishers deals on black and white bulls
There is an abundant supply of dairy cross calves available to source at this time of year, even with the increase in the live shipping market. So far in 2017, there have been over 30,000 calves exported from Ireland, nearly double the amount at the same stage in 2016.
Calf prices have eased since the early part of the spring calving season, while store prices have hardened with the approach of the grazing season throughout the country.
Given this monetary trend, a number of traditional store purchasers have consulted with me on the option of purchasing to rear or acquiring reared dairy calves to integrate into their beef production system.
Where male calves have a traditional breed influence i.e. Hereford or Angus, the obvious route is to target a 24-month-old finish as steers, after two full grazing seasons. Black and white male calves can follow one of two production systems.
The most common here in Ireland is to castrate these animals, resulting in a 24-30-month-old finish. While the target of two full grazing seasons is achieved, poor growth rates, low feed efficiency and disappointing carcass grading can be common. Alternatively, the bull beef route can be taken with these black and white calves.
If you meet with any 'factory man' to discuss the option of supplying them with black and white bulls, the response would be most likely negative. This is understandable based on the recent history with the type of animals that were supplied under this category.
Bulls close to two years of age, poorly fleshed, with insufficient fat covers and low meat yields were commonly supplied. As a result, these were always the animals to be heavily discounted when supplies of finished cattle were plentiful for the factories.